Online videos, a legal loophole in Japan that restricts firearms

Japan tightly regulates the manufacture and possession of firearms, but the July 8 murder of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has shed light on how some members of the public have circumvented these strict rules.

And he put the spotlight on online instructional videos.

Tetsuya Yamagami, 41, suspected of shooting Abe, told investigators he learned how to make weapons by watching videos on the internet, sources said.

A gun critic suggested the shooting could spark new efforts to crack down on homemade gun manufacturing.

“There’s no law regulating what people post on the internet, so it’s almost unchecked,” said firearms critic Tetsuya Tsuda. “Incidents involving homemade firearms have happened before but have not become a major social problem. This latest incident is likely to increase calls for pressure to tighten regulations.

The possession and use of firearms are in principle prohibited. The only exceptions relate to the hunting and eradication of harmful wild animals. But they require strict controls and authorization from the public security commission of their prefecture.

But manuals and videos explaining how to make guns with available materials are readily available online, and many videos posted on YouTube describe the process of making a gun. Some detail how to mix gunpowder.

One such instructional video posted in English on YouTube describes the materials and ingredients needed to make gunpowder. It sums up the process in just about five minutes. The video has been viewed 2.84 million times since it was posted nine years ago.

Nara Prefectural Police said Yamagami watched videos like this when he built his own arsenal of homemade weapons.

A 28-year-old YouTube content creator and firearms enthusiast has posted videos explaining the principles of building rifles and shotguns. But he said the knowledge is publicly available.

“Information is basically readily available, just like the structure of firearms is on the licensing exam. If skills and industrial knowledge are misused, it could help produce firearms,” a- he declared.

“The question is how much information should be regulated,” he said. He said he didn’t post a video detailing how to make guns.

YouTube has a gun policy and does not allow posting videos of how to make guns.

This content is subject to removal and repeated violations may result in channel or account termination.

The public relations department of Google, which operates YouTube, said “context matters when it comes to applying the policy” to remove content.

The other problem with gun making methods being readily available online is that all the necessary materials can be easily obtained.

“The structure of a gun is simple and can be made from various materials,” Tsuda said. “It would be difficult to introduce a licensing system for the purchase of each piece of equipment.”

The two barrels of the gun used to kill Abe, which consisted of two pipes, were held together with duct tape, while gunpowder was made by mixing a mixture of chemical compounds.

Hoses and tape can be purchased at visitor centers, for example. Yamagami purchased these materials online.

Yamagami’s case is not the only case where people have made weapons from scratch.

In 2018, a company employee in Himeji, Hyogo Prefecture, who was 23 at the time, was arrested for illicitly manufacturing firearms and sentenced to prison. He learned how to do it by watching a video site and made the weapons from commercially available materials.

That same year, Aichi Prefectural Police arrested a 19-year-old college freshman for concealing weapons he made with a 3D printer and making high-performance explosives. He was sent to prison.

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